Tuesday, August 02, 2011

2011 Suir Valley 3 Day

Like last year, it was the August bank holiday weekend and I found myself down in Clonmel. Last year I was using the race as a tune up for the MTB Marathon World Championships, this year however I arrived a little more rested and coming into good form.

I'll write another post specifically about it, but over the last few weeks, I have been starting to feel much much better and the Anemia (and other things) that has plagued me and my racing this year seems to be leaving – I'm starting to feel strong on the bike again – a feeling I hadn't had since February!

Back to the racing.

Stage 1: 105km

The first stage, like all the racing this weekend, started out fast with small groups getting away and being brought back. Soon we hit the Category 1 (well, Irish category 1, in the Tour de France, it would be a Cat 3) climb of The Vee – I had not been up it before but it was cool with an amazing view over Munster. The speed up the climb and descent was fast enough to break the peleton into many pieces – with the lead group becoming around 50 riders. After the descent a break escaped (which I wasn't part of) – I had thought my teammate was in it and didn't chase (he had been unfortunate and actually punctured at the top of the climb and due to the chaos on the climb, took a long time to get a new wheel not being able to get back on). Over one of the later climbs, Tigernach Murphy and an Isle of Man rider and I clipped off in pursuit of the 13 man breakaway mopping up (and quickly dropping) some of the riders who couldn't handle the pace of the break. We rode hard for 20 kilometers and pulled back about a minute before been caught by the remnants of the chasing peleton. About 7 kilometers before the finish, a small group of us forged ahead again after the break getting to within 48 seconds but the proper catch wasn't made. I finished 1 minute back from the race winner (who got additional time bonuses).

Stage 2: 92km

This was another quick stage taking us slightly over 2 hours to cover the 92 kilometers. Again, there was constant small groups getting a few seconds and being pulled back with nothing sticking for long. I was content to ride in the middle of the peleton watching what was happening. On the climbs, they were ridden at a good speed but there were no real big attacks – also the climbs where shallow enough that we were riding at 35kmph up the 4% drags so drafting had a huge benefit – there wasn't anything too selective. On some of the descents and flat roads around Dungarvan the speed was crazy – the peleton was lined out to 300 meters in one long colourful band as we averaged 65kmph – this was just like the AnPost RAS. On the smaller roads back towards the finish, a break got away but was whittled down to AnPost rider Ronan McLoughlin, Damien Shaw and my teammate, Paudi O'Brien. They hit the finish line 20 seconds ahead of the chasing peleton (which I was in) with Paudi getting to throw his arms in the air for victory!

Stage 3: 1.1km uphill timetrial

This time trial was a real feature of the race this year – something different from every other Irish race I have done, and if it was 8 times longer, would be a focal point of the Giro d'Italia!

It started off with 250 meters of good quality tarmac and then two steep tight switchbacks, then 700 meters of what could be described as an 'unfinished' road surface. There were holes, rocks, and cracks everywhere, with water bottle high grass in the middle of the road – it was cool!

By the time my race start arrived, it had been raining for several hours and the course was now slick too. I heard some of the earlier riders talk about how slippery it was but I knew with my MTB and Cyclocross background, it shouldn't be an issue.

The time trial itself went pretty well – I pushed hard the whole way up but I did misjudge the middle section and finished with too much left in the tank - I left seconds on the course – I do wish I prerode it instead of driving up it in a car. I did finish 3rd though with at time of 3:28 – 4 seconds off Conor McConvey's time who now took the yellow jersey of race leader.

I must say it again – that hill climb was a real highlight of the weekend – the road conditions and rain in my opinion only added to it all! Next year, use the full original length – that top section was cool!

Stage 4: 116km

Sitting in 9th, at a minute back from Conor, I had hoped that I would be a little off the race leader (and friends!) radar. I woke in the morning feeling strong (as I mentioned earlier, a feeling I'm only getting again after months of feeling terrible, morning, noon and night) and knew that I would be on the attack. There are only so many 'bullets' that I could use during the race so I had to be reasonably clever about when to really go for it. The pace was very fast from the start, and I followed anything that looked dangerous, but I felt it was simply too fast for anything to stick without all the 'danger men' present so I bided my time. 15 kilometers before the only category climb of the race I made a move, I got a good mix of riders with me and we rode hard but were caught several kilometers later – time to rest a little before the climb and get ready again.

The climb was ridden at a good pace, nothing too hard and I moved towards the front at the top. An attack on the climb would be too obvious (and marked) so as we hit the top, I accelerated over and into the fast technical descent - oh, it was pouring rain too! The race had been on and I knew it would be treacherous but I felt it was a great point to get away. As I got to the bottom I was really glad to have the company of Tigernach again – a strong timetrialist who is also coming into great form. We worked hard together to get a good gap and then went into team time trial mode. After about 10km, the gap had extended enough so that I was now the yellow jersey “on the road”. Damn, I wish that climb was closer to the finish – holding a speeding peleton off for 45 kilometers is tough going!

After a while Tigernach started to tire – I needed to keep going, trying to stay around 48-50kmph on the straights. After a while, Tigernach dropped off but for me, a bunch sprint (in horrible weather) wasn't an option so it was still all or nothing and I was committed. Another 5 or 6 kilometers later I got pulled back. We were away for the guts of 30km.

Our next card was for Daniel Clifford, our sprinter, to go for a win. He was being minded by Mark McKinley so I felt that the best thing for me to do was to attack some more and make sure I'm the one in the moves that get off the front of the peleton before the finish and the speed remains high – it was fun (and a lot safer) but it all came together for a bunch sprint with Daniel taking it – our teams second stage win of the weekend.
Irish Cycling report from the stage here.

Again, it was a great weekend of racing, thanks to the orgainizers for putting in all the time, work and resources to make this a great, safe weekend of racing. For next year, how about the Suir Valley FOUR day? Almost a 45kmph average for the weekend – fast for Irish roads!

Finally, thanks to my Sportactive team and teammates for a really great racing weekend.
Results etc... are available on the website.


Paul O'Donohuge said...

Ryan Thanks for coming to the SV3 I Wont forget about your Red Number next year for being most agressive on the last stage.If you dont mind I'm going to copy your blog to our website and next year i'll cut the grass down the verge

Thanks again Paul O'Donoghue


Ryan Sherlock said...

Thanks for running the event!

Use the blog etc... where ever you want and no need to cut the grass :)

Oh, and any chance of a lend of one of those BMW Z4s you guys were riding around in - sweet cars all weekend.